The 500 List - ProSoundNetwork.com

The 500 List

A special product feature produced in cooperation with Pro Audio Review, Pro Sound News and sister publication, Audio Media.
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More popular than ever, the 500 Series (or “lunchbox”) format of modules and racks is arguably the hottest hardware trend in pro audio hardware these days. This hardware category allows an engineer to easily mix, match, and travel with different processors/modules, based on the needs of any given project. Investing in the 500 Series format is also a cost-effective way for a recording engineer to broaden his or her palette; considering the high quality level of most of the available 500 Series products currently in the marketplace, it offers a seriously affordable buying option for such seriously good pro-grade gear.

Naturally, the first brand that comes to mind when considering 500 Series modules is API — the originator and developer of both the format’s name and its mechanical/ electrical specification nearly two decades ago.

CAVEAT EMPTOR A few “500 Series-compatible” units do have caveats to the extent of compatibility. We recommend checking the small print for whatever products you may consider, as we won’t be held responsible for smoke (with or without fire), bent metal work, or any other similar symptoms of misplaced modules. API later instigated the VPR Alliance, a program of standardization and consistency guidelines for manufacturers who desire to develop products for the 500 Series format. Before the VPR Alliance, if you used a module from another manufacturer in an API rack, the company would declare your warranty void. Not any more — just make sure that a module’s manufacturer is part of the Alliance, and you’re golden. The current member list is available at www.apiaudio.com.

PUT ‘EM IN YOUR LUNCHBOX ... AND ELSEWHERE

The API 500-6B Lunchbox is a six-position rack designed to accept all API standard 5.25- x 1.5-inch modules. It is self-powered and easy to carry with XLR I/O. API also has the 500VPR, powered externally by a tri-polar power supply. The 500VPR can hold up to 10 API modules. [One thing to be aware of with the 500VPR: an older API 560A EQ uses pin 15 for a direct output; this pin must be disabled on the 560A circuit board by cutting a trace, preventing 48V power from damaging the module. — Ed.]

Not long ago, API also unveiled its smallest mixing console ever, the 1608. Originally reviewed in PAR’s April 2008 issue by Stephen Murphy, the 1608 is outwardly modeled on the classic API 1604 console, comes with 12 550A EQs, four 560 EQs, room for eight additional 500 Series modules, and much more. An incredibly configurable 500 Series-based mixer, it’s more than just a Lunchbox — it’s more like the whole kitchen.

Meanwhile, Radial Engineering has just launched the Workhorse 5000, a frame that incorporates full mixing capabilities to a stereo bus, monitor output, and headphones. It features eight slots that are backwards compatible to previous API formats, and Radial claims that it offers greater I/O connectivity than its competition. Each slot offers male and female XLR with parallel 1/4-inch TRS for direct-to-module input and output connections. The unit has a unique module-specific feature called Omniport, where a mic preamp could use the 1/4-inch TRS for a guitar input or an insert, while a gate or limiter may use the connector as a key. All eight modules can be connected via 25-pin D-Sub connectors, which can also serve as a separate split out for live recording systems. An expansion bus allows multiple Workhorses to be combined for larger recording systems.

VSI Audio builds its PSU-T300 lunchbox, a six-module chassis and power supply for 500 Series-compatible modules. It provides an additional 300 volts for valve processors, and stepped relays engage on power up to protect the modules. VSI offers a couple of 500-type modules, but one of them — the L-23 mic-pre and compressor — will only work in this host unless you modify another rack to accommodate its power requirements. Coming soon from VSI: a 10-module rack mount chassis.

AND IF YOU’RE ‘HUNGRY’ FOR MORE

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The Matrix Audio Systems “Lunchbox” houses one 500 Seriescompatible module in a cool, rock n’ roll outfit. It comes in different artist’s designs (AC/DC Highway to Hell is pictured). Complete with an external power supply (with 48 VDC phantom power), just plug in your 500 Series-compatible module and go. XLR input and output. This is one lunchbox everyone is sure to notice. Purple Audio has its own take on the format, the Sweet Ten Rack. As the name suggests, it is a 10-slot rack. The rack offers a second balanced output, utilizing - 2 and link pins, for Purple Audio preamps split output and compressor linking. It is another easy-to-carry unit with front handles. The Sweet Ten Rack’s ninth slot will not accept any module with a full enclosure, which includes some API modules as well as products from Chandler, Speck Electronics, Avedis, and A-Designs. Purple Audio, Great River, Buzz Audio, Eisen Audio, the API 512c and other modules without enclosures should all be fine. All other slots will take any 500 module, with or without an enclosure.

Alternatively, you could take it up to 11 with the Brent Averill Enterprises (BAE) 11 Module Rack, with optional Jensen transformers on a per channel basis; the upgrade ensures a balanced signal for unbalanced modules, alleviating the need to use any sort of gain staging. The rack comes with a remote three-amp power supply. BAE also offer a 6-slot rackmount host, and a 6-slot lunchbox.

Another 11-rack product is available from Old School Audio (OSA), the Power Rack. The company also offers the Track Pack, which can hold eight modules. The manufacturer states that it is “completely backwards and forwards pin compatible” with the 500 Series format.

If you want something a bit smaller — a “snackbox,” you might say? — there are several two-rack 500 Seriescompatible products on the market. Empirical Labs offers the EL 500, a twomodule rack in a 1U frame with a builtin DI. Avedis has the R52, another 2- module 500 Series-compatible rack, with internal power supply. A-Designs offers the 500HR, but you are advised to speak to A-Designs before going for this one, as not all 500 Series units are compatible with it. Further, Atlas Pro Audio offer The Revolver, another selfcontained powered frame for two 500 Series-compatible modules.

On the larger side, Pete’s Place offers an 8-channel console, which will accept a total of 16 500 Series-compatible modules. All of the module slots can be bypassed or engaged from a button on each channel’s corresponding routing module, which allows the user to have one, two, or no modules in each channel strip while maintaining full routing and fader control of the signal running through it.

Finally, if you really, really love working with 500 Series modules, maybe you should think about Tree Audio’s fully customizable 500 Series-ready recording console. Available with 12 or 24 channels, the console has three tiers of 500 Series compatible slots. The company helpfully suggests you could use the top tier for mic pre/line input, the middle tier for EQ, and the bottom tier for compressor/limiters.

— PAR, PSN and AM Editorial Staff

THE 500 LIST
An extensive hunt for anything that any manufacturer claims to be a 500-Series compatible module resulted in more than 100 separate instances. Here they are...

MIC PRE

A-DESIGNS
P1—Based on the Pacific mic pre.
www.adesignsaudio.com

A-DESIGNS
EM Silver-Mic pre with steel output transformer and DI.
www.adesignsaudio.com

A-DESIGNS
EM Blue—Mic pre featuring nickel output transformer.
www.adesignsaudio.com

A-DESIGNS
EM Red-Mic pre with 50/50 output transformer.
www.adesignsaudio.com

A-DESIGNS
EM Gold-Mic pre with steel output transformer.
www.adesignsaudio.com

ALTERNATE SOUNDINGS
MP1-A 60-dB mic/line preamp.
www.alternatesoundings.fr

ALTERNATE SOUNDINGS
MP2—Dual mic/line preamp.
www.alternatesoundings.fr

ALTERNATE SOUNDINGS
MD12—Dual guitar and bass recording preamp.
www.alternatesoundings.fr

API
512C—Fully discrete mic/line preamp.
www.apiaudio.com

ATLAS PRO AUDIO
Juggernaut-Class-A, discrete, transformer-coupled preamp.
www.atlasproaudio.com

AUDIO MAINTENANCE
Carnhill-Mic pre with Carnhill input/output transformers.
www.audiomaintenance.com

AVEDIS
MA5-Mic pre inspired by ‘70s British Class-A consoles.
www.avedisaudio.com

BOZO ELECTRONICS
MPA3-Mic pre with wide gain range.
www.bozoel.com

BURL AUDIO
B1-Mic pre to complement B2 Bomber ADC.
www.burlaudio.com

BURL AUDIO
B1D—As B1, but with all-iron BX4 output transformer.
www.burlaudio.com

BUZZ AUDIO
Elixir-Low-noise, wide-bandwidth mic pre.
www.buzzaudio.com

CLASSIC AUDIO PRODUCTS
VP26-Mic pre inspired by ‘70s “West Coast” sound.
www.classicapi.com

CHAMELEON LABS
7681-Discrete, Class-AB circuit, neutral mic pre.
www.chameleonlabs.com

DAV
Broadhurst Gardens 501—Neutral mic pre with DI.
www.davelectronics.com

EISEN AUDIO
DIY500—Framework to build own mic pre.
www.eisenaudio.com

EISEN AUDIO
EAC500—Tailored mic pre based on DIY500 template.
www.eisenaudio.com

EISEN AUDIO
EAC312V—Authentic 312 mic pre.
www.eisenaudio.com

ELECTRODYNE
501-Discrete, 2-stage studio preamp with active DI.
www.petesplaceaudio.com

FORSSELL TECHNOLOGIES
SMP-500—Sonically neutral mic pre, based on SMP-2.
www.forsselltech.com

GRACE DESIGN
m501—Transformerless mic pre based on m101.
www.gracedesign.com

GREAT RIVER
MP500NV-Mic pre inspired by early ‘70s consoles.
www.greweb.com

JLM AUDIO
Dual99v500-Mic pre using two discrete 99v op-amps
www.jlmaudio.com

JLM AUDIO
TG500-A 2-FET, 6-transistor, Class-A design mic pre.
www.jlmaudio.com

JLM AUDIO
NV500—Reworked take on Neve 1073/1290 mic pre.
www.jlmaudio.com

LACHAPPELL AUDIO
583s-Vacuum-tube mic pre based on 992EG platform.
www.lachapellaudio.com

LAZ PRO AUDIO
MPA—Fully discrete, dual-stage mic and DI preamp.
www.lazpro.com

LIPINSKI SOUND
L-609—Simplified version of Signature series mic pre.
www.lipinskisound.com

MATRIX AUDIO SYSTEMS
HO-5—Single-channel version of the HO-3.
www.matrixaudiosystems.com

OLD SCHOOL AUDIO
MP1-A-Low-noise, high-gain mic pre.
www.oldschoolaudio.com

OLD SCHOOL AUDIO
MP1-C-Vintage-style preamp.
www.oldschoolaudio.com

OLD SCHOOL AUDIO
MP1-L-Mic pre based on Lundahl 1538XL input transformer.
www.oldschoolaudio.com

PRODIGY ENGINEERING
Bella-Remote-control mic pre.
www.prodigy-eng.com

PURPLE AUDIO
Biz Mk-Mic pre with mic/line switch and DI load switch.
www.purpleaudio.com

PURPLE AUDIO
Pants—Four op-amp differential mic pre.
www.purpleaudio.com

RADIAL ENGINEERING
PowerPre-Mic pre with 3-position voice control.
www.radialeng.com

REALIOS
A9031-Mic pre with ‘60s/’70s Olympic Studios sound.
www.realios.com

REALIOS
A9033-Mic pre with passive voltage gain.
www.realios.com

ROLL MUSIC
RMS 5A7 “Tubule”—Transformer-coupled tube mic pre.
www.rollmusic.com

SHADOW HILLS
Mono Gama-Mic pre with Jensen input transformer.
www.kmraudio.com

SHINYBOX
Si—Transformerless mic pre, switchable input loading.
www.shinybox.com

TRUE SYSTEMS
PT2-500-Mic pre and instrument DI.
www.true-systems.com

VINTAGE DESIGN
M581—Vintage style mic pre.
www.vintagedesign.se

VSI AUDIO
L21-Mic pre, stepped control over input attenuation.
www.vsiaudio.com

EQ

ALTA MODA
AM20—Four-band parametric equalizer.
www.altamodaaudio.com

ANAMOD AUDIO
AMEQP—Analog EQ with recallable presets.
www.anamodaudio.com

API
550A-Discrete, 3-band EQ.
www.apiaudio.com

API
550B-A 4-band EQ, standard on large-format API consoles.
www.apiaudio.com

API
560-A 10-band graphic EQ.
www.apiaudio.com

AVEDIS
E27—A 3-band EQ with Jensen transformers.
www.avedisaudio.com

BUZZ AUDIO
Tonic—A 3-band EQ utilizing chokes and electronic filters.
www.buzzaudio.com

CHANDLER
Little Devil EQ-”English style” console EQ with hardwire bypass.
www.chandlerlimited.com

DAKING PLUS
EQ500—EQ based on Daking 52270 EQ.
www.dakingplus.com

ELECTRODYNE
511-A 2-band, discrete transistor reciprocal EQ.
www.petesplaceaudio.com

GREAT RIVER
32EQ—EQ and filters from Harrison 32 series consoles.
www.greweb.com

JDK AUDIO
V14-Single-channel, 4-band EQ.
www.jdkaudio.com

JLM Audio
PEQ500—Full Pultec EQP-1A and EQP-1R type passive EQ.
www.jlmaudio.com

LAZ PRO AUDIO
EQA—EQ with discrete audio path.
www.lazpro.com

PURPLE AUDIO
TAV-A 10-band, inductor-based graphic EQ.
www.purpleaudio.com

PURPLE AUDIO
Odd—A 4-band, inductor-based EQ.
www.purpleaudio.com

PURPLE AUDIO
Lilpeqr-A 2-band program EQ.
www.purpleaudio.com

S & M AUDIO
EQSM1—EQ, 50 Hz high-pass filter with gradual slope.
www.sandmaudio.com

SPECK ELECTRONICS
ASC-V-Single-channel, 4-band EQ.
www.speck.com

DYNAMICS

ALTA MODA
AM10-Single-channel compressor/limiter.
www.altamodaaudio.com

ANAMOD AUDIO
AM660—Analog re-creation of Fairchild 660 limiter.
www.anamodaudio.com

JUST SO WE’RE COVERED ...there may be other modules in the world that claim the 500-compatible moniker, but at the time of compilation of this table, we didn’t know about them. If so, drop us a line. API
525—Fully discrete, feedback-type compressor.
www.apiaudio.com

API
527-Single-channel, compressor based on 225L.
www.apiaudio.com

BUZZ AUDIO
Essence-Class-A optical compressor.
www.buzzaudio.com

BUZZ AUDIO
Potion-Class-A, FET-based compressor.
www.buzzaudio.com

CHANDLER
Germanium-Class-A compressor with Germanium transistors.
www.chandlerlimited.com

CHANDLER
Little Devil—FET compressor based on Germanium and 2264.
www.chandlerlimited.com

FOOTE CONTROL SYSTEMS
P3500—Compressor, variable attack and release controls.
www.mercenary.com

JMK AUDIO
JM-115C—Transformer coupled in/out VCA-based compressor.
www.jmkaudio.com

LAZ PRO AUDIO
FSC—DIY opto-compressor kit.
www.lazpro.com

LIPINSKI SOUND
L-629—Simplified version of Signature Series compressor.
www.lipinskisound.com

PENDULUM AUDIO
OCL-500-Opto-compressor/limiter based on the OCL-2.
www.pendulumaudio.com

PETE’S PLACE
BAC-500—Compressor module capable of 50 dB of gain.
www.petesplaceaudio.com

PURPLE AUDIO
Action—FET compressor with true relay bypass.
www.purpleaudio.com

RADIAL ENGINEERING
Komit—High-resolution VCA compressor-limiter.
www.radialeng.com

SAFE SOUND AUDIO
P501—Tracking compressor for vocals.
www.safesoundaudio.co.uk

SHADOW HILLS
Optograph 500-Single-channel, discrete, optical compressor.
www.kmraudio.com

STANDARD AUDIO
Level-Or—JFET limiter/distortion processor.
www.standard-audio.com

OTHER

ALTERNATE SOUNDINGS
M2B-An 8-channel summing module with main insertion.
www.alternatesoundings.fr

ALTERNATE SOUNDINGS
M26-A 26 x 2 summing module, including insertion paths.
www.alternatesoundings.fr

EMPIRICAL LABS
DerrEsserr—Multi-function filtering device.
www.empiricallabs.com

JCF AUDIO
Levr—Active summing amp.
www.mercenary.com

JLM AUDIO
HPM500-A 6-channel mixer with switched panning per input.
www.jlmaudio.com

JMK AUDIO
JM-120—Dual Hi-Z input DI preamp.
www.jmkaudio.com

LITTLE LABS
VOG—Analog bass-resonance tool.
www.littlelabs.com

MOOKTRONICS RESEARCH
PDI500—Passive direct box module.
www.conwayrecording.com

PURPLE AUDIO
Cans—Headphone amp, can double as control room preamp.
www.purpleaudio.com

PURPLE AUDIO
Moiyn—Summing amp for Sweet Ten rack.
www.purpleaudio.com

RADIAL ENGINEERING
JDV LB-Discrete, Class-A instrument DI.
www.radialeng.com

RADIAL ENGINEERING
Reactor JDX—Guitar amp and speaker interface.
www.radialeng.com

RADIAL ENGINEERING
Phazer LB-Phase-alignment tool.
www.radialeng.com

RADIAL ENGINEERING
X-Amp—Re-amplifying device.
www.radialeng.com

RADIAL ENGINEERING
EXTC—Effects loop processor.
www.radialeng.com

XQP
531—Optical de-esser based on Dane 31.
www.xqpaudio.com